Frederick Richard Lee (British, Barnstaple 1798–1879 Hermon Station, Malmsbury, Cape Colony, South Africa)
Oil on canvas
34 1/4 x 54 3/8 in. (87 x 138.1 cm)
Gift of Dr. Melvin Goldberg, 1974
Not on view
Lee entered the Royal Academy schools in 1818 with the intention of becoming a landscape painter. He was elected an associate in 1834 and an academician in 1838, exhibiting regularly in London between 1822 and 1870. He specialized in views of the bucolic British countryside and, as a lover of the sea and a lifelong yachtsman, scenes of the coasts of England, France, Spain, and Italy. John Ruskin rather touchingly described his style as "well-intentioned, simple, free from affectation or imitation, and evidently painted with constant reference to nature."
The Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882), joined the Sardinian navy and in 1834 attempted to incite his fellow sailors to seize the ship on which they served and occupy the arsenal of Genoa. When the plot was discovered, he was sentenced to death and fled to South America, where by 1846 his Italian legion had secured the independence of Montevideo. In Lombardy two years later he formed a volunteer army but was defeated by the forces of various foreign powers and again fled abroad. In the midst of his career as a soldier and revolutionary, he returned once more to Italy and in 1855 bought property that comprises much if not all of the island of Caprera, off the northeast coast of Sardinia. He stayed there for some five years, building a whitewashed stone house that he gradually enlarged and to which he often retired in the course of his long career, dying there in 1882.
A figure of fascination to his contemporaries, Garibaldi was acclaimed as a popular hero when he appeared in London in 1864. In the autumn, the general was staying at Caprera and Lee visited him there, making many sketches of his house in preparation for a painting to be shown at the Royal Academy in 1865. The present canvas must be that work, as it is signed and dated 1865 and the academy catalogue describes it in the same terms as the artist’s label on the stretcher bar: "General Garibaldi's residence at Caprera—looking across the straits of Bonifacio towards Corsica. Painted from oil sketches done on the island during a visit to the General in the autumn of 1864." Given the admiration in which the general was held, Lee must have imagined that such a subject would be well received, and though this view of Caprera seems to have remained on his hands for five years or more, eventually it became one of his best-known works. Restored at the Museum after it was acquired in 1974, this luminous landscape is in very good state.
[2012; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): F·R·Lee RA 1865
the artist, London (until at least 1869); Dr. Melvin Goldberg, Great Neck, N.Y. (about 1941–74)
London. Royal Academy. 1865, no. 66 (as "General Garibaldi's residence at Caprera . . . ").
London. Royal Academy. 1869, no. 199.
George Pycroft. Art in Devonshire: With the Biographies of Artists Born in that County. Exeter, 1883, p. 88, mentions that in 1864 Lee visited Garibaldi's home at Caprera and "painted many sketches, from which he did the picture . . . exhibited [in 1865]".
"F. R. Lee, R.A." Art Journal (December 1908), p. 376.
L[ionel]. C[ust]. "Frederick Richard Lee." Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 11, New York, 1909, p. 794.
Maurice Harold Grant. A Chronological History of the Old English Landscape Painters. Vol. 8, 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1926, supp. 1949]. Leigh-on-Sea, 1961, p. 690, states that Lee painted two pictures of Garibaldi's house at Caprera in 1864.
Anthony M. Clark inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 96, ill.
L. H. Cust and Sarah Wimbush inOxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Vol. 33, Oxford, 2004, p. 66.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 260–61, no. 125, ill. (color).